“NGC is prepared to provide a steady supply of cybernetics to the US military,” said Kaika. “Of course, that includes the medical knowledge and technology necessary to install them on your soldiers.”
Walker stared at the document in his hand. “That’s a very good deal for this price. Perhaps too good.” With a stern expression bordering on a frown, he peered into Kaika’s eyes.
“I understand your wariness, General, but let me assure you that this arrangement greatly benefits NGC as well. More users now means more business in the future, after all.”
“But a business revolves around profit. At these prices, you’re lucky to break even.” Walker placed the papers on the table.
He has a good grasp of ARMS production costs.
Kaika had intentionally dropped the price to expedite the negotiations, but her opponent had seen that as a point of suspicion instead.
Contrary to his build, he is very shrewd and meticulous.
General Walker was a hulk of a man. Though they were seated at the meeting table, the almost seven-foot general towered over Kaika and Saya. His crisply ironed green uniform bulged from his muscles. His short, perfectly combed hair complemented his stiff and imposing demeanor. Despite looking like a weightlifter, Walker exuded an air of sophistication and wisdom, an impression strengthened by his piercing eyes and ash grey locks.
Kaika knew nothing else about him. Prior to the meeting, she had only been told she would be meeting a representative of the US military.
Several military policemen were stationed at each of the meeting room’s two doors. Arashi, keeping the same stiff pose as the guards, stood a few steps behind her mistress. Showing none of her usual laziness, she fit right in with the military crowd.
“You’re right,” said Kaika. “Even considering it as an investment, this deal would normally put us in the red.”
“Yes. NGC’s acquisition of KyberCorp has given us a practical monopoly in the cybernetics market. We can take some risks without losing the top spot in the industry. Aside from that, we have plans to move manufacturing to China to lower production and material transport costs.”
Saya explained further. “In addition to already functioning facilities, we are going to build several metal processing and ARMS manufacturing plants in Guangxi. NGC sources its alloys from different parts of China, so moving there will cut down transport costs. That autonomous region also has less restrictions and monitoring for exports. Using the southern shoreline, we can covertly transport the products to this country via sea routes, avoiding all the inconveniences and bribes necessary when going through standard channels.”
“Those are just plans. Making a commitment based on something so uncertain is difficult.”
“We are still sorting out some issues with the local triads,” said Kaika, “but it’s only a matter of time. The plans were delayed due to opposition from a conservative triad leader.”
“Are you talking about Zhang Wei Long?”
“…As expected of the general. Nothing gets past you.” Kaika smiled. “Yes, but that problem has been dealt with.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“Let’s just say he is already out of the picture. We’re currently making arrangements with the leader of the Shui Jing Group, the new top triad.”
Walker closed his eyes for a moment, a hint of disappointment visible on his stony, square face. “Have you met with the leader in person?”
Kaika noticed the change in Walker’s expression, but she could not tell what caused it. Thinking that bluffing while in the dark was unwise, Kaika chose to tell him the truth.
“No, I haven’t. I have an associate currently handling the negotiations on that end.”
“Thank you for being honest. I believe we would’ve made good partners, but unfortunately, the US military can’t accept this offer, at least not in its current state.”
“Is there a problem with the terms? If it’s about the large initial down payment to fund production, that’s negotiable.”
“We have received a similar offer from a different party.”
Cold sweat ran down Kaika’s back.
“There is no other corporation capable of producing ARMS at the scale stipulated in our terms.”
“That was also what we thought until they approached us. The problem is, both of you claim to have control over Guangxi. I think it would be better to have this discussion together with the other party.” Walker signaled at one of the MPs.
The MP opened the door and called for someone.
Kaika’s bad feeling turned into reality.
A woman, her hair tied in a bun behind her head, entered the room. Kaika knew her face very well.
Akane Kogami barely looked liked herself. Deep black circles hung underneath her tired eyes. Her prim and proper demeanor was nowhere to be seen. With unkempt hair and a wrinkled face, she resembled a crone who had given up caring for her appearance. Her stride had a slight limp.
Two more familiar faces followed Akane inside.
Walker stood up. “Let me introduce you. This is the leader of the Shui Jing group.”
The general motioned towards the lone man among the new visitors. Dressed in a white mandarin collar suit, the tall man with a long ponytail smiled. It was a playful smirk, something expected of a child who had just pulled off a prank.
“Mr. Zhang,” said Kaika.
“It’s been a while, Ms. Nikaido.”
Saya was already on her feet and warily eyeing Mao. Arashi noticed her hostility and took a fighting stance.
“I understand you people have some history,” said Walker, “but please don’t forget that you’re in US territory, a military base no less.”
“Stand down,” said Kaika.
Saya and Arashi relaxed their guard.
Zhang raised an eyebrow. “You don’t look very surprised.”
“That’s because I’m not. I’m very disappointed though. This is the worst case scenario among my predictions.”
“Aren’t you curious how I’m still around?”
“Obviously a body double. You treat cosmetic surgery like daily make up. Fixing up some lackey to take your place would be easy enough.”
“That’s absolutely correct!” Zhang clapped a few times. “Do you mind if we take a seat?”
“I do, but don’t let that stop you.”
Zhang sat down on a chair Mao pulled out for him. Mao remained standing by his side. Akane shot Saya a sharp look as she clumsily flopped into her seat. Her injuries at the arena appeared to have left permanent damage. Despite her struggle with the chair, Akane’s mood seemed very bright, as if she had just won the lottery.
Kaika had deduced the link between Akane and Zhang when she noticed the odd circumstances surrounding Zhang’s assassination.
Zhi Zhu’s paralysis weapon had been a big clue. A knife would be far more effective against normal people. That tool was designed to fight against an almost fully cybernetic person. Kaika had initially labeled it as mere coincidence, but after Rin confirmed Akane’s survival, her thinking had changed.
That weapon was made to defeat Ageha. Her knight would not have been beaten so easily otherwise.
Very few people knew about Ageha’s body. Akane was one of them.
Zhang’s survival had been a bit harder to predict.
Mao, who appeared close to Zhang, had remained calm after seeing him get shot to death. Remembering her own panic when she thought Ageha died, Kaika had found Mao’s behavior to be very odd.
The biggest clue was how easily the Shui Jing group took over the top seat within the triad hierarchy. That made sense if their leader was the same person.
Despite acknowledging the possibility of Zhang’s survival, Kaika had judged it to be unlikely and done nothing to prepare for it. She had not received any information from Valeriya that supported her theory, after all.
Did Ria betray me?
Kaika shelved that thought for later. She had bigger fish to fry.
“Guangxi is under Mr. Zhang’s control, and they have offered us similar terms to this contract.” Walker tapped on the document on the table. “Aside from the condition that the US military would stop interfering with the Chinese triads’ internal affairs, all other conditions are practically equal. However, I believe Mr. Zhang’s offer is preferable because Ms. Nikaido’s deal works under the assumption that NGC has Guangxi.”
That was exactly right. Kaika had no means to convince Walker to choose her offer. Zhang had stripped her of her weapons and cornered her.
She had no way to win.
Then I’ll just force a stalemate.
“Did you say the conditions are equal?” she asked. “That’s completely wrong, General Walker.”
“Please explain,” he said.
“Knock offs will never come close to the real thing. Moreover, ARMS are much more complex than phones or appliances. Are you really willing to entrust the lives of your soldiers to inferior Chinese products?”
Unlike other countries, the United States still had ongoing conflicts in several territories. Those were mostly small skirmishes under the pretext of justice and human rights, but lives were lost all the same. In fact, the importance of cybernetic enhancements increased in cases where bombers and tanks could not be used.
“What a bold thing to say,” said Zhang. “Do you have any proof to back up that claim?”
“Aside from decades of cutting edge ARMS manufacturing? NGC has been at the forefront of cybernetics since the field’s conception. It’s absurd to think some upstart with a few processing plants could even approach our level, regardless of them trying to rip off our designs.”
“Nothing but speculation.” Zhang shook his head. “The specifications document I provided to the general shows just how excellent our products are. What matters is real data.”
Kaika nodded. “I absolutely agree, Mr. Zhang. General Walker, I’d like to propose a weapons test between NGC and Mr. Zhang’s group. As the customer, I think it’s in your best interest to see how our products stack up against each other. What matters is real data, after all.”
“There’s no need for that,” said Zhang. “The fact that you don’t have Guangxi already means you can’t fulfill the terms in your contract.”
“We offer the US military the exact same deal even now. Same prices, no changes. Nothing in our proposal requires Guangxi.”
“Impossible. You can’t sustain that level of supply without the right resources.”
“We have other ways of lowering costs. Confidential, of course.”
“Please don’t listen to her bluff, General. You should understand that her offer isn’t realistic. She just wants to shoo away the competition for now and then backpedal later.”
“Are you that scared of having our products compared? If you really think they’re of equal quality, then you have nothing to lose.”
Except your initiative in this negotiation, that is.
“As much as I hate to admit it, we soldiers are expendable,” said Walker. “The country and the people try to glorify our value, but in the end, we’re no different from bullets and missiles used up for the sake of our leaders’ interests. However, just because we are tools doesn’t mean soldiers can be used carelessly. Leaders must make efficient use of any limited resource.” Walker turned to Kaika. “I agree with your proposal for a weapons test. Mr. Zhang, I believe you have no reason to decline if you have confidence in your product.”
“…Yes, that’s correct.”
Kaika’s lips curled into a repressed smirk. Zhang, in a rare show of emotion, looked visibly annoyed by her successful maneuvering.
Akane remained silent, but her previously jovial expression quickly soured. She glared at Kaika, her cheeks trembling in fury. The thirst for revenge was almost palpable in her stare.
Kaika made a mental note of Akane’s state. The woman was broken, but that also meant she was more dangerous due to her jagged edges.
They spent the rest of the meeting discussing the details of the weapons test. Aside from basic functionality, power, and durability demonstrations, a mock battle between a representative from each group was added to show live combat performance. The date was set two weeks out to give both parties time to prepare.
After the discussion ended, Zhang and his party prepared to leave.
Walker held up his hand. “Please wait. I hope to keep this competition between Ms. Nikaido and Mr. Zhang as peaceful as possible. I understand that both of you are very powerful in your home countries, but keep in mind that you’re in the United States of America. Any unauthorized violence within our territory will not be tolerated. Do not underestimate us.”
Kaika and Zhang nodded at his words. She knew very well that the military and law enforcement in the US were incomparable to those in Japan. They had better equipment, experience, and people. Most importantly, they actually did their jobs.
Zhang left the room, followed by Mao and Akane. Kaika glanced at Saya and got up from her seat.
“One more thing,” said Walker.
Kaika wordlessly sat back down, her eyes on the general’s face.
Walker placed his elbows on the table and leaned forward slightly. “We know you’re planning to sell ARMS to the Japanese and Chinese militaries.”
Kaika mentally clicked her tongue, but this was still within her range of expectations. “I invoke my right to remain silent. Even if that were true, I can’t confirm due to client confidentiality.”
“The US military has no intention of stopping you. Our interests probably lie in the same direction. We guarantee your safety as long as it stays that way.”
“Is that why you reconsidered my offer instead of immediately taking Zhang’s?”
“If your products really are superior, it would be foolish to buy cheaper imitations. We’d fall behind the countries that did accept your offer. That is not an option.”
“Rest assured.” Kaika brandished a perfect business smile. “We provide equal service to all our customers.”
“That little bitch!!!” Akane kicked over a trashcan as she paced around the spacious hotel suite.
“Please calm down.”
Though Akane had cursed in Japanese, Zhang politely replied to her in English. She knew some Mandarin, and he could understand some Japanese, but it was easier to use a language they were both fluent in.
“Hey, I know… Let’s just kill them. Kaika and Saionji are isolated in this country. A few bodyguards can’t protect them from a surprise attack! Zhi Zhu beat Shikimi, right!? Then we can kill them now!”
“Zhi Zhu is in China managing the organization in my place.” Zhang, seated on a couch, crossed his legs and sipped his tea.
“Then send Mao and those twins! How hard could it be to kill two girls!?”
“You should know that best.”
Akane ground her teeth. Having been defeated by those two girls several times, she could not argue back.
“I understand your anger, Akane, but we can’t do anything to them in this country. You heard General Walker, right?”
“So you’re telling me to just let them go? Kaika ruined our plans! There’s no way our cybernetics can compare to NGC’s. That cunt probably has even more advanced models hidden up her sleeves!”
“True, but the coming demonstration includes a mock battle. That part will affect audience opinion the most. I’ll call in Zhi Zhu to represent us. It’s a sure win.”
“That’s not guaranteed. The only reason Zhi Zhu beat Shikimi was because I told you about his body.”
“You say that because you don’t know Zhi Zhu. That man is a true dragon.”
“Even if he did win and we foil Kaika’s plans, she’ll just go into hiding when she returns to Japan. She’s untouchable there. Did you forget our deal? I provide you information on Kaika and her group, and you help me kill them all. I’ve fulfilled my end of the deal. I even provided you with ARMS production technology for this stupid deal with the Americans! But those bitches are still perfectly fine! I didn’t think you were this incompetent!”
Mao, not content to continue watching from a sofa in silence, glared at Akane and began to stand up. Zhang raised a hand to stop her.
“Ms. Kogami, please be patient. We can’t risk attacking Nikaido and then failing, just like she did when she tried to assassinate me. I don’t want to make that girl desperate. Who knows what she’s capable of when truly cornered. We need to eliminate them all in one fell swoop.”
Akane understood his logic, but her rampaging emotions robbed her of good judgment. Her head was filled to the brim with the desire to kill Saya and her mistress.
“I ran out of patience long ago. I was a fool to trust a coward like you!”
Mao jumped from her seat and grabbed Akane’s face, lifting her off the ground.
“Stop that,” said Zhang.
Mao released her hapless prey. Akane fell to the ground on her knees.
“I thought she didn’t understand English!?” shouted Akane, her fingers on her sore cheeks.
“She doesn’t, but anyone can understand your intent when you shout that much.”
Akane scowled at Mao. “You bitch! How dare you touch me! You’re nothing but a pet whore!”
“I’d refrain from speaking to her like that.”
“Or what, she’ll attack me again!? Train your pets better!”
“No, I’ll kill you myself.”
Akane’s anger evaporated in an instant. Still on the floor, she felt her body start shivering. Zhang’s words were calm and clear, completely lacking emotion. That was why she understood that they were not meant to intimidate. He had simply stated a fact.
“You should be more grateful to Mao,” he said.
Akane, shaking like a leaf, mustered her courage and asked, “W-What do you mean?”
“She was the one who convinced me to take you in when you showed up months ago. She told me you reminded her of herself at a difficult time and asked me to help you like how I helped her. It seems we were both mistaken in our evaluation of you.”
“N-No, wait, please! I’m sorry for yelling and saying all those things. Blood rushed to my head, and I just-”
“Then it’s fine.”
Mao extended a hand towards her. Akane shrank away from it.
“Don’t be afraid,” said Zhang. “She’s just helping you up. It’s hard to tell because of her eternally smug face, but Mao is a very caring girl.”
Akane took Mao’s hand, and the latter gently pulled her up. Mao patted Akane’s shoulder a few times and gave her a thumbs up with her other hand. Akane could easily tell she was asking her to trust them.
“I can speak Japanese you know,” said Akane in her mother tongue.
“Oh, right. Sorry about grabbing your face, you fug-, …Never mind.”
“Good job controlling that tongue, Mao,” said Zhang.
“Shut it, you horny eunuch.”
“My two treasures are in perfectly good condition!”
“Too bad your junior is too limp to make use of them.”
“I-It is not!”
Zhang and Mao had always treated Akane with respect and generosity. Even after her outburst, they did not abandon or blame her. Watching the slightly comedic scene before her, she felt a familiar warmth spread within her chest. She tried to place the feeling.
Oh, that’s right.
The desire to destroy.
“Did you hear?”
Two triad members were going down a hallway in the Soaring Serpent Society HQ.
“Some of the guys saw Zhi Zhu panicking after Boss’s body double got shot at the drug factory. Even he didn’t know about the boss faking his own death.”
“What’s the big deal? Boss Zhang has his reasons.”
“Thing is, that girl Mao seems to have known about it.”
“Man, that’s just wrong. What’s the boss thinking, trusting that bimbo over his right-hand man?”
“Right? I never liked her. I just hope Boss Zhang isn’t getting tricked.”
“Hmm… Mao may be a bitch, but damn she’s hot. I can understand going nuts over that body.”
“Stop saying foolish things and get back to work,” said Zhi Zhu as he approached them from behind.
The two underlings quickly turned around. “”Boss Zhi Zhu!?””
“Don’t listen to baseless rumors. Boss Zhang knows what he’s doing. Doubting his thinking is beyond your capability and station.”
“O-Of course! I apologize for the careless words!”
The two men bowed deeply and ran off.
Zhi Zhu shook his head and sighed as he watched them scamper away.
This is not good.
Rumors about the discord between Zhang and Zhi Zhu had been spreading like wildfire within the organization. That by itself was enough for Zhi Zhu to worry about, but the most pressing problem was the fact that even he had started having doubts about his leader’s judgment.
He had spoken to Zhang about the reason why the fake assassination plan was kept secret from him but not Mao. Zhang had explained that it was necessary to fool the cunning Kaika. Zhi Zhu’s panic was the best way to trick Kaika’s group into believing Zhang’s death was genuine.
The reason Zhang told Mao about the plan was so she wouldn’t go berserk and get herself killed. Zhang’s trust in Zhi Zhu’s composure had allowed him to choose such a daring tactic, or so he said.
Zhi Zhu was not convinced. Both he and Zhang had lost face in their subordinates eyes, a mishap fatal for people in their position. Losing respect in an organization that was built and maintained on reputation could lead to attacks coming from within and without.
“Trouble in paradise?”
Zhi Zhu peeked over his shoulder and saw Akane. “Ms. Kogami, weren’t you in the US with the boss? The demo is at the end of the week.”
“I’ll be back by then. I just came back to take care of some business. Maybe we can go together on my return trip. You’re going to be the star of the show.” Her lips formed a seductive smile.
“What brings you to headquarters?”
“To see you, actually.”
“That’s unexpected. To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“I have some information you may be interested in. One of my men caught a spy that tried to infiltrate my network the other day. I rushed back here to take part in the interrogation.”
“I was under the impression you didn’t have that kind of manpower.”
“Not much in terms of firepower. That’s why I decided to ally with your society. But even if it comes from a dead person, money still buys a lot of information.”
“And what does that spy have to do with me?”
“Do you know about Zhang Mei Xing?”
Zhi Zhu stiffened. “How do you know that name?”
“Kaika Nikaido’s spy spilled it after a few hours of torture. Zhang’s rebellious son and future successor, was it?”
“Stop beating around the bush.”
“How impatient. We should move to a more secure location first.”
Zhi Zhu led Akane to a small conference room and locked the door.
Akane leaned against the table. “It feels like we’re going to be doing something naughty in here.”
Akane sighed. “You really should learn to relax a little. Anyway, did you know that Zhang and his son have been in contact recently?” She smirked. “That look says you didn’t. Seems Mei Xing came around and decided he wants to take over the family business. How does Zhang see that, I wonder?”
“That’s none of your concern.”
“No can do. This is a trade. I can’t just give you info for free.”
Zhi Zhu considered for a moment and decided to provide a certain amount of information. “Boss always wanted Mei Xing to be his successor, but that kid rejected him and fled. I think Boss still feels the same way even now. That boy is his family, his blood.”
“And how do you feel about that?”
“I’m not sure what you mean.”
“Don’t play dumb. You’re second-in-command, and Zhang is old.”
“I won’t deny that I’d like to take over the boss’s position once he retires, but I’ll respect his will if he decides to make Mei Xing the next dragon head, assuming you’re telling the truth and the boy actually wants it.”
Akane’s eyebrows rose as far as they would go.
“That’s some loyalty. I’m honestly impressed, assuming you’re telling the truth.”
“I have no reason to lie to you.”
“Then think of this as a favor.” Akane took out her mobile terminal and showed a video to Zhi Zhu. “Recognize the man talking to Mei Xing?”
Zhi Zhu had seen pictures of him in the file Akane provided months ago. Her information had allowed him to recognize the helmet-masked Ageha at the drug facility and defeat him with ease.
“I had people trailing Kaika’s group ever since they landed in China. We lost sight of them from time to time, but they’re easy to track in a remote place like this. Shikimi visited the inn you see in the background a couple of times. I didn’t think much of it when I first saw this, but that changed when the spy explained that Mei Xing lives at that inn.”
“This can’t be true. Even if he despised his father, doing something like this… Where did you get this video?”
“The people I borrowed from your society took it. You can confirm with them if you want.”
If the video was taken by people from the triad, it’s genuine.
“Zhang is being betrayed by his son.”
Zhang would be devastated if he found out that his last living blood relative had betrayed him. Zhi Zhu felt the urge to rip out Mei Xing’s spine to punish his disloyalty.
Akane showed a look of concern. “Zhang doesn’t have to know.”
“…What are you scheming?”
“Nothing that fancy. I just want your help. Zhang wants a peaceful resolution to his conflict with NGC. I can’t allow that. If you get rid of that traitor and pin it on Kaika, Zhang would never know about his son’s betrayal, and I’ll get my just cause to kill that brat and everyone she cares about. Simple, right?”
“That would never work.”
“Don’t you have people you can trust? Take them and make it look like a failed kidnapping. All fingers will point to Kaika. She’s the only one with any motive, at least as far as Zhang knows.”
Zhi Zhu processed the information in his head. He was unsure if he could trust Akane’s words, but the small details added up. Zhang keeping him in the dark. The protection detail Zhang placed on Mei Xing. The lack of an official candidate for the next dragon head. Everything made sense if Zhang’s intent was to make Mei Xing his successor. Zhi Zhu desiring the dragon head chair was no secret, and Zhang may have been wary of that.
“…Let me think about it.”
“Of course, but please don’t take too long. This needs to happen before the demo. You’re expected to be there, so moving a few days before would be best. Kaika will probably disappear again after the weapons test. Who knows when I’ll get another chance at revenge.”
Akane left the room, leaving a conflicted man alone with his thoughts.
“Good job, you two,” said Akane as she held out an envelope filled with Yuan.
In front of her were the two triad members that Zhi Zhu overheard gossiping in the hallway.
“Piece of cake.” He grabbed the envelope.
“Get money from chatting, I feel like movie star.”
The men spoke in broken English. She had been a little worried that they could follow her instructions, but it seemed their comprehension was much better than their verbal skills.
“I’ll give you the other half in a month’s time. Don’t speak a word about this to anyone else. Your lives on the line.”
“B-But we just talk rumors…”
“There’s nothing to worry about if you keep quiet. Now go.”
The two men got out of Akane’s car. The vehicle was parked on a busy street, like a tree hidden in the forest.
Now I just need to wait for Zhi Zhu to light the fuse.
Inciting him to action had been easier than she thought. She had not even needed to lie. The video evidence and spy’s testimony were all true. She had only directed him to the path she needed him to take.
Satisfied at having successfully carried out her plan, Akane stretched her back. A dull pain shot from her abdomen, traveling through her spine and stinging her brain. It reminded her that she still needed to kill Rin Natsume, the woman who shot and scarred her. But that could wait. Kazuki’s share of vengeance would be delivered soon, and she wanted to savor it.
In a few days, Zhang and Kaika will destroy each other, leaving me as the sole victor.
That’s probably what Akane is thinking right now.
Kaika tossed her mobile to the side, letting it bounce on the fluffy bed. She had just finished informing Yamagishi’s family of his demise. Even the fifty million yen damage reparation she had mentioned on the call did not soften his wife’s cries in the least.
She normally did not bother apologizing to the family of each person that died under her employment. The job description for bodyguards and spies included mortal danger. But Yamagishi was special. He was a sacrifice that would lead her to victory.
Yamagishi himself had not known how he was being used. He had infiltrated Akane’s circle per orders, unaware that the information Kaika gave him was completely fabricated. It was an impossible mission with an almost guaranteed chance of failure and capture.
Yamagishi had been a suicide bomber carrying information instead of explosives.
And now he was dead. The transmitter on him had said as much.
Kaika rolled on the bed, not caring how the shoulder straps of her negligee had slipped down her arms. The only other person in the hotel room was Arashi, who was asleep on the couch. Digging her nose into a dolphin plushie, Kaika continued organizing the numerous schemes in her head.
Zhang was not foolish enough to attack while in US territory. Akane was another story. One look at Akane’s eyes and Kaika knew she had become a vengeful spirit, a wraith lacking caution and restraint.
By informing Akane of Mei Xing’s existence, Kaika intended to bait her into killing him and pinning the blame on Kaika’s group. Zhang would definitely get revenge if his son were killed, regardless of the consequences.
Kaika had suspected from the beginning that Zhang deeply cared about family. Why else would a triad boss let his only son, a liability for a man in his position, roam free and do as he pleased? Seeing Zhang and Mao’s oddly familial relationship had turned Kaika’s suspicion into conviction.
Though engineered by the supposed victim, Akane’s plan to frame Kaika was decent enough. Unfortunately, it would crumble the moment Kaika showed evidence proving that it was not her group that killed Mei Xing. The conversation between Ageha and Mei Xing about Zhang’s death, recorded using a bug planted in Ageha’s ARMS, was sufficient proof. Kaika’s faction simply had no reason to harm a man who was that friendly with them.
Once Kaika was cleared of suspicion, all the blame would go to Akane, the only other person with a motive. With a little push, Zhang would kill her, removing the thorn in Kaika’s side once and for all.
But for all that to happen, Mei Xing had to die, along with his family to get rid of possible witnesses.
Their blood would be on Akane’s hands, but it would be Kaika’s finger on the trigger.
Mei Xing was Ageha’s friend.
Kaika knew a time would come when she would need to break her promise with Ageha and lie to him.
Is there a better way?
There probably was, but it was not something a devil baptized in deception and incapable of trust could come up with.
Sacrifices, like Yamagishi, were necessary.